The Iron Man Chuck Vogelpohl Interview By Jim Wendler For EliteFTS
Dave and I wanted to do an interview with Chuck Vogelpohl for awhile and for several reasons. Since his new video is out and we knew thereíd be a lot of questions about his different training style we thought that this would give you an inside look at why he does what he does. Also, Chuck doesnít do a lot of interviews; in fact, I donít know if anyone has even asked him. And this leads us to the final point. Perhaps the lack of interviews is because people are scared of him. A lot of people have some preconceived notions about who Chuck is and what kind of person he is. They see internet videos of him squatting or deadlifting and going nuts. They hear stories about his intensity in the gym and some of the crazy numbers that he does. The internet has done wonders for ďThe Myth of Chuck VogelpohlĒ. Some of these stories have led people to believe that he is some kind of crazed lunatic.
In truth, Chuck is far from the person that people think he is. He is a very humble and gracious person. He will help coach and spot any lifter in the gym. For example, on Wednesdayís Chuck will bench before J.L and I. He will always stick around to help load, spot, hold boards and help set bench shirts. Another example; my very first meet was the 2001 IPA Nationals, the same meet that Chuck squatted his first 1000lbs. This was done on a Saturday. On Sunday, I walked into the warm-up room, nervous and green. During all of my warm-up sets on the squat, Chuck is running the Monolift and giving me advice.
Now donít get me wrong, this doesnít mean Chuck likes everyone to come up to him and pat him on the back. Heís quieter than you think and isnít comfortable in the spotlight. So if you do approach him, donít expect to get a hug. And donít be offended if he doesnít sit down and bullshit with you for an hour. This isnít him being cocky; itís just the way he is.
The following interview was done on a Friday after squatting and deadlifting. We recorded it on an audio tape and since Chuck speaks softly (surprised?), some of the answers were hard to understand upon listening to it. I transcribed it the best I could. I now present to you The Iron Man; Chuck Vogelpohl.
EFS: First, thanks for letting us do this interview. You donít do many interviews and donít get involved with the internet.
Chuck V.: Thanks. I let my lifting do the talking.
EFS: The major reason why we wanted to do this interview was to clear things up on your new video, ďVogelpohl XXXĒ. First, very briefly, explain how and why you structure your squat and deadlift workouts. They are not the same as most; you donít have a max effort day and dynamic effort day.
Chuck V.: Well I should point out that I did perform a max effort day and dynamic effort day for almost twenty years. What I do is now is not for everyone. Not for the beginner. I used to do a lot of speed work with chains and with just bar weight; I did this for years, maybe fifteen. What happened was I broke my neck and had a lot of injuries that occurred outside of the weight room and I had to make a lot of adjustments. Plus, what happened on max effort dayÖ I would end up going nuts both days; basically going heavy on both. Thatís how I am and thatís what happens when you train here [Westside Barbell]. Plus, Louie is always challenging you and I canít back down from the old man. Overtime this didnít go very well. So there were a lot of factors that went into it.
Basically, on Fridayís I will squat and will either work up to a heavy weight, sometimes off of a higher box or instead of going heavy on the squat I will pull heavy from the pins. A lot of what I do is based on how I feel; something I canít put down on paper.
EFS: So do you still do your speed stuff before you work up to a heavy single or double on the squat?
Chuck V: Yes.
EFS: What kind of percentages do you use?
Chuck V. You would know better than me. Percentages work well with beginners and intermediate lifters; they need guidelines and somewhere to start. If you are at a higher level, you instinctively know where you are, what numbers you need to hit and how weight is supposed to feel.
EFS: How high is the box you use when you work up?
Chuck V: This depends. 1-2 inches above parallel.
EFS: How about the rack deadlifts? How high are those?
Chuck V: I usually pull above the knee, but it depends. I need to pull something heavier than I will pull in a competition. I need to put that weight in my hands. I think that is very important to overload the top end. It helps with confidence.
EFS: Do you ever do any max effort work on Monday?
Chuck V: Occasionally, but not often.
EFS: What does a Monday consist of for you?
Chuck V: A lot of lat work, low back work on the 45 degree back raise, Reverse Hyperextensions, Back Attack, glute ham raises. I do most of my abdominal work at work or at home. These are not easy workouts though.
EFS: What does your abdominal training consist of?
Chuck V: A lot of high rep work; a lot of static work. I still do weighted sit-ups.
EFS: What about sled work?
Chuck V: I never do it. Lou loves the sled, but I never do it.
EFS: You talk about technique in the video. Having lifted with you, I know you are a big believer in mastering technique.
Chuck V: Youíve got to master technique. Youíve got to be dead on; especially with heavy weights. If you canít lift correctly than you are going to get hurt.
EFS: What are your tips for mastering technique?
Chuck V: I think people believe that they will be perfect after one year. Me and Louie, weíve been lifting for so long and weíre still working on mastering technique. It takes a lot of time. Probably more than people are willing to invest. The number one thing that people donít seem to do is keep their head up and their knees always come in. These things will kill your bar path when you get to heavier weights; this will screw your lift.
EFS: Everyone has heard stories about you and some of the insane weights youíve used in training, especially in regards to bands and weight. Are you still doing this?
Chuck V: Yes. But Iíve been adding a lot more chain work to help with my building my stability. The bands are what made my squat take off, but I lost a lot in stability. I was using a ton of tension.
EFS: In the video you touch on a beginner not using bands.
Chuck V: When you and Dave told me that beginners were using bands; high school kids and below I couldnít believe it. I donít know who is coaching these days.
EFS: So what are your thoughts?
Chuck V: At least be at master level of the sport and your technique needs to be dead on. Get the most out of just using bar weight and milk it; you should be able to hit some big numbers with them and chains. The bands wonít make you squat big; check between your legs before you change anything. It takes more than a band to make you squat.
EFS: Why do you think the bands worked so well for you?
Chuck V: Iíve always been weak at the top so the bands helped quite a bit; probably more than most people. Most people are very weak at the bottom. I donít know if the bands would help this as much as they did with me at the top.
EFS: What did your max effort work use to be like?
Chuck V: A lot of good mornings, different kinds of squats and a deadlifts. The same stuff that most everyone still does. Not much has changed really over the years.
EFS: What about your diet? Iím sure everyone wants to know how you stay so lean.
Chuck V: Just watch my fat. I eat two or three protein drinks a day; Ultra Size and some whey protein. Itís not like I count the number of carbs and fat.
EFS: How much protein do you get per day?
Chuck V: Who knows, who cares.
EFS: Iím sure all the diet experts will want to know.
Chuck V: Whatever.
EFS: At meets, you get a little worked up before you lift. Is it hard to stay focused on your form when you are like this?
Chuck V: Sometimes, but itís what I know. I should probably stay a bit more controlled.
EFS: Whatís the deal with you and rap music?
Chuck V: Whatís the deal with your tattoos?
EFS: Whatís it like training at Westside being Chuck Vogelpohl?
Chuck V: When I started training at Westside, I think in 1986, I was just another lifter, another member of the team. Today, really nothing is different. Iím just another member of the team. As they strive to make me better, I strive to make them better. Westside is more than training and powerlifting. For me, and many guys here, itís my second family and weíve been here through bad times and good times. Louie has done more for powerlifting across the world, the United States, Columbus, Ohio and has yet to always been able to give 1000 times more to his lifters in the gym. This is what people will never understand about Westside Barbell and the gym and the attitude. People get wrapped up about how we train, as far as numbers and exercises, but they donít know, and will never know HOW we train. Youíve seen it; when visitors come here and weíre getting ready for a meet.
EFS: Youíre getting all emotional on me.
Chuck V: I should point out that if youíre here and not giving 100% than get the fuck out.
EFS: What are you views on powerlifting equipment?
Chuck: I do think itís getting somewhat out of hand, but if you want to compete at a high level, you have to wear whatís out there. I have been wearing the same squat suit for years now and Dave has been helping me design a Metal squat suit. In order for me to compete in this sport I have to use the best equipment I can. Thatís the nature of the sport.
EFS: You have a reputation for being intense and hardcore. Inside, in the deep part of your soul, how does this make you feel?
Chuck V: [Walks away]
EFS: We all know you started the squat beanies in powerlifting. Can you let us in on what the new fashion trend is going to be?
EFS: How do you decide what hat to wear on squat day?
Chuck: [At this point, Chuck breaks out some kind of Harley Davidson do-rag and starts laughing]
EFS: What do you think of static iso-holds?
Chuck: [Laughs] What?
EFS: How do you calculate volume on a weekly basis and do you base this entirely on Prilipinís chart and do you follow the 60% rule when performing extra workouts?
Chuck: Whatever you say.
EFS: Now that you are reaching the big 4-0, do you plan on competing in the Masterís Division?
Chuck: [Walks away.]
EFS: Did you ever catch the guy that stole the sleeves of your shirt?
Chuck: [Stares at me. I wore my special Westside t-shirt sans sleeves that day in honor of Chuck]
EFS: Why does your bench fucking suck?
Chuck: Damn shirts donít work.
At this point, Chuck finished with a couple of sets of elevated glute-ham raises and went home. After the interview I sat down with Dave and talked about what itís been like training with Chuck over the past several years. Simply put, Dave said that he is the most dependable, hardest working, most competitive lifter heís ever seen. Heís always the first one in the gym and is always helping to put weights away and help others around him. If you are willing to give 100% in the weight room, he is willing to help you reach your goals. While there are a lot of stories about Chuck, Dave simply said, ďChuck is all WestsideĒ.
Critical Bench would like to thank EliteFTS for giving us permission to publish this interview.